Live Review: Jets Overhead @ Joe’s Apartment – November 29th 2012

I don’t know why this piece gave me so much difficulty. I have opinions, plenty, usually, that’s why I review events, but this time, I’m left ‘unwowed’ – if anyone reading this had a similar experience or can help me put my finger on it, I’d welcome some insight.

For anyone who’s never been to Joe’s Apartment (this was my first time), it is a narrow rectangular space (maybe 25’ by 120’) – there is a stage at the far end with the word ROCK in solid marquee lights with a balcony above it, for artist gear, and stuff, a quasi-backstage area. There is a huge chandelier hanging over the centre of the dance floor and a few tables and stools in front of plush upholstered benches along the bricked walls. To balance the room, there is a balcony above the foyer/entrance with tables, chairs, the requisite TVs. Although I didn’t like the music that was playing, the space has good sound and an equally good sound system. I was sitting far house left, right by what became the Jets Overhead merch table. Judging by the bannering below the stage, this was an “Almost Famous” showcase presented by The Peak 102.7.

The first band was called “In Bliss” who started at 9 pm with about 50 people in the place. They are a four-piece, acoustic guitar/bass & back-up vocals, electric guitar and lead vocals, drums, and a female singer. The two main singers have a really nice tonal blend to their voices. The four are rather young – university-age, and when performing look rather serious, but not uncomfortably so. That being said, it did rather take a while for someone on stage to crack a smile. Their music is rock/pop and pleasant sounding. The vocals can sound very soft; controlled not weakness. They do a great cover of the Paolo Nutini song “New Shoes” and really make it their own. Not a lot of song introductions so I can’t report on the names of many songs – one I knew, and one other was introduced as “Dust and Bones”. They did encourage the audience to come to the front and a few actually listened. By the time their 30-minute set was done, they had played 8 songs and about double the number of people were in the audience. So, a good beginning to the evening.

Next was/were Kytami who had the oddest set-up I’d ever seen on stage: 2 turntables, a Mac AirBook, a drum kit. I knew there was a fiddle because Kytami had done a photo shoot against the brick wall earlier in the evening and she doesn’t let it out of her sight. She came on-stage wearing a costume feather eye-mask that I think may have been passed to a female member of the audience to take turns wearing after a few minutes. But back to the music: DJ, drums, and fiddle totally works! Watching her bowing, I’d say she was classically trained and her music blends DJ beats & drums with traditional (as in East Coast/Celtic) styles, but also classical as she did include Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”, albeit a very rocked-up version of it. It’s hard to tell how many songs she played because as in traditional music, she does ‘sets’ going from reel to reel, jig to jig, moods ever changing by slowing things down and then ramping the energy and speed right back up. She is the one to watch, by her band, by the audience. Kytami oozes confidence – she’s this dark-haired, café au lait skinned tiny slip of a thing with a rock chick vibe, which becomes more evident when she uses the microphone like a DJ/MC. She makes use of sampling – plucking and melody overlays to make her sound like a 1-person string quartet, and even while you’re watching her do it, you don’t actually pick up on it until she’s presented you with the finished melodic product. Calling her set “impressive” is an understatement. She played for 45 minutes and had the room under her spell for the duration. And I learned the Ky- in her name is pronounced to rhyme with “pie”.

Jets Overhead came on just after 11 pm. I really like their music – I bought the CD “No Nations” years ago and bought “Boredom & Joy” at the show. I’ve seen music journalists call their music “atmospheric rock”, I prefer to call them almost “ethereal” for certain songs because Antonia’s and Adam’s voices blend so perfectly well and I was glad to hear that this wasn’t an engineered phenomenon – they actually do mesh that well together. This was my first time seeing them live and as much as I truly enjoy their music, their voices, their sound, and maybe it was an off-night for me or maybe it was the problems with the microphones Adam was experiencing, not due to any fault of the band, I felt underwhelmed.

The audience (at this point in the evening personal space on the dance floor was a luxury) seemed to be more familiar with the songs from the “No Nations” CD than “Boredom & Joy” (there was a really enthusiastic fan close to me who whooped every time they played something from that CD – which was most of the 15-song set – who I found amusing).

About the set: “Love Got in the Way” had this very cool borderline disco feel to it, complete with falsetto from Adam; the song I don’t know the name of (it is from Bridges) was difficult to get any lyrics for but it was a nice rockin’ tune for them; “I Should be Born” was gorgeous and on the CD you don’t hear the wonderful undercurrent from the bass line; the guitar part in the CD’s title track “Boredom & Joy” had an almost Caribbean feel to it rhythmically and it was really kind of cool; “Heading for Nowhere” – my favourite bits have always been Antonia’s long phrases on the lyric “we got the time”, but she didn’t do that. Maybe that’s normal, maybe because it was the last song.

The setlist: Sink or Swim, Beach Dream, Love Got in the Way, No Nations, Sure Sign, Always a First Time, (the aforementioned song from Bridges), Time and Place, Saved by it, Breaking to Touch, Your Desire, Butterflies, I Should be Born, Boredom & Joy, Heading for Nowhere.

There was no opportunity for an encore as the house DJ (who jumped behind their on-stage stations between sets and it seemed to me were loathe to give up the stage for the music-playing talent) was right there on hand to start his set within seconds of the band saying “good night” at just after midnight.

Like I said before, technically there was nothing wrong with the performance, and despite my ‘meh’ overall feeling, Boredom & Joy will be spending time in the CD changer and on the old iPod.

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